Janet Page Kessler, fiber artist, photographer and designer passed away peacefully on September 13, 2015.
A true New Yorker, Janet was raised in a boarding house on 34th street, owned by her German immigrant grandparents. It was the 1930s, and many of the boarders were indigent. She grew up quickly, hearing many of their stories. It was no doubt that her love for New York City—as a place of both struggle and opportunity --began at that time.
At an early age, she became interested in needle arts and explored every aspect, from crochet to painting her own needlepoint canvases. Her first experience with fiber art was based on traditional English paper-piecing, learned from her grandmother. She studied art at Parsons. By the 1980s, her passion for fiber art became her livelihood. She began designing quilts for all the major home-sewing fabric manufacturers. In the years that followed, she designed and wrote directions for over 1,000 original quilts. These instructions were printed and distributed to home-sewers throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe and Japan.
Her own fiber art was quite different than the commercial patterns she wrote. A free, independent spirit, her early art quilts explored optical illusions created by color and space. She soon developed her own unique style, with organic shapes, layers and intricate textures created by thread and fabrics.
Her passion for art extended to sharing it with others: over the years she taught art and design classes for every level of ability from beginner to master classes. Her children and grandchildren also knew that any conversation with their Nana could quickly segue into an opportunity to discuss art, music, literature or politics.
She and Nancy Crow created the New York Art Quilts Network. An early advocate of women’s rights, many of her later art quilts explored domestic violence, rape, and verbal abuse as their themes. Her fiber art won awards at Quilt National, and many of her pieces were solicited by museums and private collectors.
Janet continued designing until the year before her passing. When she was not able to use a sewing machine, she began creating unique paper collage, and returned to her early love of drawing.
A most unusual and creative woman, Janet’s passion for learning, art and reading was reflected in her work, and passed on to her children—Cia, Adrienne and Susan—and her grandchildren—Drury, Sean Michael, Sara and Billy. She was always full of surprises. We will miss her free spirit and inquiring mind.